Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee was involved in a physical altercation with several members of the Chicago Blackhawks organization after the Capitals' 3-1 preseason victory tonight at the Value City Arena before 8,087 fans.
Following a penalty-filled game, several Capitals, including Coach Ron Wilson, complained that the Blackhawks were intentionally instigating contact with some of their smaller players. According to several Blackhawks, McPhee confronted their coach, Lorne Molleken, immediately after the game and the confrontation turned physical.
Chicago defenseman Brad Brown said McPhee grabbed Molleken, shook him and landed a punch, giving the coach a black eye. Team members then joined the altercation, the player said.
McPhee ended up in the middle of a group of Blackhawks players and officials just outside their dressing room, throwing punches while punches were thrown at him.
Police and security personnel intervened and pulled McPhee from the pile, and he emerged with his face cut and one arm of his suit torn off. As McPhee headed back toward the Capitals' dressing room, Brown yelled: "He sucker-punched our coach in the eye."
McPhee and the Capitals declined to comment on the incident. The Blackhawks did not open their locker room or allow reporters to interview players or team officials.
Police on the scene said that they did not make a report, and no charges were being filed. NHL officials likely would decide to bring disciplinary action stemming from the incident.
The game was marred by confrontations on the ice, including five fights, three of which involved Capitals farmhand Trevor Halverson. The penalties continued through the end of the game, with Mark Janssens picking up a penalty for interfering with goalie Olaf Kolzig with 2:02 left in the game and the result all but decided. Washington finished with 15 penalties for 61 minutes; Chicago had 17 penalties for 52 minutes and dressed tough guys Bob Probert, Reid Simpson and Dave Manson.
Wilson refused to discuss the altercation between McPhee and the Blackhawks but criticized Chicago for what he said was overly physical play.
"They didn't come to play hockey," Wilson said. "I'm not going to get into any [specifics] but it was kind of painfully obvious what was happening. Let them comment on it.
"I'm sure they'll say it was our fault, that we had it coming to us for whatever reason. But if you look at the lineup we had, it was a skill lineup, and they tried to intimidate our skilled lineup and we won the game. What more can you say than that?
". . . The positive is, we came out of it fine. Our guys hung tough and played tough together."
James Black scored for the Capitals (4-1) 54 seconds into the game and Eric Daze answered less than two minutes later. Jamie Huscroft, who fought Simpson, scored the game winner on a rising slap shot off a faceoff, about 11 minutes into the game, and Steve Konowalchuk put it away on the power play with 18 seconds remaining in the second period. The Blackhawks mustered just 10 shots through two periods, accumulating 14 penalties in that span.
"You have to look at their organization," Huscroft said. "You look at their record and the team they had out there, and it was evident what was going on."
Capitals Notes: Nolan Baumgartner, Michal Pivonka and Huscroft were among the Capitals exposed in Monday's waiver draft, though it is unlikely any will be taken: "If we do lose any of the players we left available it wouldn't hurt the organization," McPhee said before the game. . . .
Recently re-signed winger Richard Zednik wanted to play in tonight's game, but the Capitals do not want him rushing back into the lineup. "He'll only get in one exhibition game, if that," McPhee said. . . . The Capitals conclude the preseason this week with games at Philadelphia Monday and against Carolina in Norfolk on Tuesday. . . . The Capitals and Blackhawks meet twice during the regular season: Dec. 27 at MCI Center and Feb. 18 at Chicago.